Wilkes Community College will present MerleFest 2003, the 16th annual festival in celebration of the music of the late Merle Watson and his father Doc Watson, on its campus in Wilkesboro, NC on April 24th through the 27th. Those joining Doc Watson and Merle's son Richard Watson for MerleFest 2003 will include Ralph Stanley & the Clinch Mountain Boys, Emmylou Harris, Bruce Hornsby, Belá Fleck & the Flecktones, Hot Rize, Laura Love Band, Asleep at the Wheel, Leahy, Donna the Buffalo, Ricky Skaggs & Kentucky Thunder, Sam Bush Band, Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Guy Clark, Paul Geremia, Rhonda Vincent & the Rage, Vassar Clements, Tony Rice, Tim O'Brien, Del McCoury Band, the Whites, Norman Blake, Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver, Eustace Conway, and the Waybacks. Special performances will include Vassar's 75th birthday jam, the Acoustic Blues Showcase, the Midnight Jam, and "Follow Me Back to the Fold: A Tribute to Women in Bluegrass."

Those with internet access can buy tickets by visiting the MerleFest website; if purchasing assigned seats at the Watson Stage, you can actually pick your seat location online! Tickets can also be purchased by calling 800.343.7857 (within the US) or 336.838.6267 (outside the US) from 10am through 4pm EST on weekdays. Those interested in volunteering for MerleFest should call 336.838.6292.

MerleFest 2003 has also confirmed appearances by Louisiana Red, Peter Rowan, Red Stick Ramblers, Laurie Lewis Trio, Darol Anger, Mike Marshall, Lynn Morris Band, New Southern Broadcasters, Don Edwards, Nashville Bluegrass Band, the Jerry Douglas Band, Polecat Creek, Psychograss, Mark Newton Band, Tony Trischka, George Hamilton IV, Etta Baker, Mountain Heart, Jack Lawrence, Darrell Scott, Mark Schatz & Friends, Kathy Kallick Band, Pete Wernick, Roy Book Binder, David Holt, Jim Lauderdale, Zoe Speaks, Todd Phillips, Sally Jones & the Sidewinders, Phillips, Grier, Flinner, Dale Ann Bradley & Coon Creek, Patrick Sweany, Del Rey, Dianne Hackworth, Laura Boosinger & Timmy Abell, Steve James, R.G. Absher & Extra Measure, Dixie Dawn, Bob Hill, Joe Smothers, T. Michael Coleman, Common Ground, Pine Mountain Railroad, Tut Taylor, Mitch Greenhill, the Local Boys, Charles Welch, Billy Jonas, Bill Mathis, the Cockman Family, Andy Owens, Andy May, Shana Banana, Jake & Sara Owen, Brack Llewellyn, Gary Johnson & the Brushy Mountain Boys, and Alberti Flea Circus.

Most recent additions include Buddy & Julie Miller, Bob Bovee & Gail Heil, Lightnin' Wells & Algia Mae Hinton, the Rowan Brothers, Clint, Clarence, & Garet Howard, Brad Leftwich, Wolfe Brothers, the Gospel Jubilators, the Malpass Family, Rayna Gellert, Gary Johnson & the Brushy Mountain Boys, Robert Dotson, Joanne Call, Joanna Hartness, and Isaac Akers. (Please keep in mind that all bookings are subject to change without notice.)

Visit the MerleFest website for maps and more info!
Finals of the Chris Austin Songwriting Contest for 2003 will take place at MerleFest on April 25th. Entries must be received by March 18, 2003. For more entry information, please call 800.799.3838 or visit the MerleFest website. MerleFest also hosts instrument contests for mandolin (4/24), guitar (4/25) and banjo (4/25). Registration for 20 entrants for each of these contest will take place on site at the festival approximately 90 minutes before the start of each contest. The popular Songwriters' Coffeehouse will again happen on Friday evening. Songwriters selected from registrants on site will share the stage with singer-songwriters performing at MerleFest.

MerleFest 2002 established new records for participation. Attendees came from 47 states, the District of Columbia, and at least ten foreign countries. Overall festival participation, including ticketed participants, artists, volunteers, children admitted free and community outreach, totaled 78,294 for MerleFest 2002. Funds generated by the festival enabled Wilkes Community College to contribute more than $699,000 toward scholarships, salaries, program enhancements, and capital improvements. Over its 15-year history, MerleFest has contributed more than $3.8 million to the college.

MerleFest has continued to evolve, grow, and improve since 1988, becoming one of the most important annual events in the Southeast, and has defined and led the way for the emerging field called Americana music. MerleFest offers a generation and genre crossing mix of traditional and contemporary roots music, bringing together the very best of bluegrass, contemporary acoustic, Celtic, blues, folk, old-time, Cajun, jazz, and singer-songwriter music, along with traditional dance and crafts.

Read a review of MerleFest 2002!

[Published on: 1/24/03]

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